25th Anniversary Issue: Timeline: 1994-98

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1994


JANUARY-APRIL:
Neiman Marcus, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, The Sharper Image and The Nature Company will be the first featured catalogers on Catalog 1, the new home shopping service from Spiegel Inc. and Time Warner Entertainment. ... The Catalog Coalition, formed in 1991 when catalogers felt underrepresented by the DMA on postal issues, will merge with the DMA. ... Sen. Dale Bumpers, D-AR, introduces a bill authorizing states to require out-of-state firms to collect both state and local use taxes on their mail-order sales. ... The USPS says it lost a record $1.8 billion in fiscal 1993 despite increased mail volume and operating revenue. ... The Postal Rate Commission says it wants to know what the USPS plans to do about restructuring its mail-classification system. ... Joining what promises to be a crowded field, Fingerhut creates S The Shopping Network Inc. and plans to begin airing this fall. ... The House of Tyrol's business site is almost completely leveled by tornadoes that swept through Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina, putting the collectibles cataloger temporarily out of business. ... By year's end, IBM expects to complete its changeover from all field sales to a sales and marketing approach that relies on database marketing.


MAY-AUGUST: The USPS plans interactive kiosks at post offices for the public to reach governmental agencies. ... Tennessee's tax commissioner predicts the use-tax issue will be solved within 10 years in favor of the states. ... PRC chairman Edward Gleiman predicts First-Class mail "could be the first to leave the system" thanks to the growth of electronic communications. ... Stanley Fenvessy, a fulfillment expert and longtime DM News columnist, dies at 75. ... A House bill would amend the Social Security Act to prohibit list companies and government agencies from selling or renting lists that include a person's Social Security number without the person's written consent. ... The House approves the Fair Credit Reporting Reform Act. ... Major League Baseball plans to mail its first catalog in time for opening day in 1995. ... Dell discontinues its retail business, as CEO Michael Dell says the company has "just begun to tap the potential in our direct business." ... The House passes the Driver's Privacy Protection Act of 1994, which requires opt-out options in using state motor vehicle lists by DMers and list compilers.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: President Clinton is expected to sign a $30.2 billion crime bill that includes restrictions on the use of state motor vehicle lists by DMers. ... Comcast and TeleCommunications Inc. extend a tender offer to buy home shopping network QVC. ... Rep. Edward Markey starts an investigation into the list rental practices of online services, citing a DM News ad for the availability of 1 million AOL "active member" names. ... Trans Union Corp. appeals an FTC ruling telling the company to stop distributing and selling target marketing lists based on consumer credit data. ... Hello Direct Inc. and Paper Direct Inc. begin Internet operations while Robert Redford's Sundance says it will be online soon. ... Fingerhut cancels its unlaunched S Shopping Network, resulting in a $19 million write-off and 30 job losses. ... Prodigy Services Co. says it is the first online service to provide a link to the Web. ... Ex-New York Times editor Jane Traulsen is named DM News' editor in chief.


1995


JANUARY-APRIL:
MasterCard and Netscape announce a secure system to process credit card transactions online. ... Paper prices reach their highest in 10 years, adding further woe to a direct mail industry still reeling from a 14 percent postal rate increase. ... The FTC proposes rules covering when telemarketing calls can be made and how frequently, plus new disclosure requirements about the reason for the calls. ... Fingerhut Corp. co-founder Manny Fingerhut dies Feb. 23. ... The Justice Department investigates TRW and Metromail for possible antitrust violations. ... Ticketmaster introduces a list brokerage service that culls data from registers at Blockbuster, Dayton Hudson, Marshall's, Tower Records and 15 telemarketing centers that handle 40 million inbound calls daily. ... Geico uses its first TV ad campaign to generate 10,000 new insurance customers weekly. ... United Parcel Service and Federal Express announce same-day, next-plane-out service. ... DM News launches DMNews.com and debuts Global Direct Marketing, a supplement to DM News.


MAY-AUGUST: The USPS, which reported a record net income of $1.06 billion for the first seven months of its fiscal year, wants its second rate increase in as many years. ... American Red Cross telemarketers get 40,000 calls pledging support and donations for victims of the Oklahoma City bombing the day after the disaster. ... The FTC does an about-face on its revised proposed rules for the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act. The rules now would exempt catalog and business-to-business sales over the phone and telephone fundraising efforts by charitable organizations through their own staff workers, volunteers or hired professional fundraisers. ... The FTC announces final regulations designed to protect consumers against deceptive and abusive telemarketing practices.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: The USPS postpones the start of the Neighborhood Mail service for unaddressed advertising mail until after the holidays. ... A Pitney Bowes survey finds that the majority of U.S. small businesses think electronic mail will have no effect on the volume of regular mail, and 29 percent say the volume will rise because of e-mail. ... Direct marketing's first large list of e-mail addresses, managed by Marketry Inc., is introduced at the DMA's fall show. A week later, Marketry resigns from managing the file. ... Industry analysts expect retail sales to rise 5 percent in the holiday season. ... DM Group picks up the 250,000-address list that Marketry dumped. ... The House and Senate review medical-record privacy bills that would limit the direct marketing of specific products and services to health providers and consumers by pharmaceutical and insurance companies. ... The USPS awards open-ended contracts worth $1.2 million to four companies to develop interactive kiosks through which the public can reach government agencies and place orders with catalogers, DMers and other vendors.


1996


JANUARY-APRIL:
A survey by Find/SVP estimates the number of U.S.-based Internet users at 9.5 million. ... Spiegel and a consortium of U.S. and Japanese companies test CD-ROMs for delivery of electronic catalogs. ... E-mail marketing firms spring up to form a cottage industry as a result of the burgeoning Internet revolution. ... Countless startups flock to the Internet Expo in Silicon Valley. The conference draws 60,000 attendees. The consensus at the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing conference, held at the same time, is that while Internet marketing isn't profitable now, marketers must commit to it for the long term. ... The 888 toll-free area code debuts, and marketers worry whether others will be able to replicate their 800 numbers. ... Though attendance at the DMA's spring conference in Los Angeles is better than the disastrous 1995 show in Nashville, TN, exhibitors remain skeptical about its future.


MAY-AUGUST: DM Management Co. shuts the Carroll Reed women's apparel catalog after 62 years in business. ... Steve Roberts of Edith Roman Associates and Marc Klaas, father of the kidnapped and murdered Polly Klaas, exchange letters about children's data in DM News. ... U.S. News & World Report wins a ruling in a privacy suit brought by a subscriber who said the magazine violated Virginia privacy laws by including his name in a subscriber list rented to Smithsonian magazine. ... Time Inc. spins off its Music Sound Exchange and Home Entertainment units and merges them with American Family Publishers, which it co-owns with the Pritzker family, to create American Family Enterprises. ... Stan Woodruff, co-founder of Woodruff-Stevens & Associates, dies of cancer at age 63. ... The General Accounting Office says the USPS' National Change of Address service violates privacy rights and is illegal in a report to Congress.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: First Data Corp. buys Donnelley Marketing for $185 million. ... Researcher Yankelovich Partners predicts declining Internet use unless Web sites are updated frequently and computers and modems become cheaper. ... The DMA taps Procter & Gamble veteran H. Robert Wientzen to succeed Jonah Gitlitz as its next president/CEO. ... President Clinton signs legislation creating the first independent inspector general with oversight over the USPS. ... DialAmerica unveils a strategy to give the client's customers the impression that they are dealing directly with the client, rather than a telemarketing service bureau. ... The DMA initiates its "Privacy Action Now!" push over online and children's privacy concerns.


1997


JANUARY-APRIL:
In a deal uniting two leading sellers of compiled business information, Database America Cos. Inc. signs a letter of intent to merge with American Business Information Inc. ... FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky says self-regulation and possible technology fixes should be used to protect privacy on the Internet. He calls this the preferred solution because industry self-regulation tends to be more flexible. ... The prepaid phone card is predicted to generate $2.6 billion in sales by 2001 as well as a windfall of customer data. ... DM News debuts DRTV News, a supplement to DM News.


MAY-AUGUST: A federal court in California issues a summary judgment in favor of Publishers Clearing House, Reader's Digest and Time Inc. in a case that attacked a range of sweepstakes-related practices. ... A beleaguered Cyber Promotions president Sanford Wallace calls a settlement with CompuServe prohibiting unsolicited e-mail to CompuServe's subscribers a "big loss" for proponents of opt out. ... A dispute erupts between nonprofits and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service over what some call the "nit-picking" examination of nonprofit mail for adjectives such as "fantastic," "great" or "rewarding" that would make them ineligible for reduced postage rates. ... J. Crew relaunches its Web site with a goal of generating 5 percent of the company's sales online by year's end. ... America Online reverses course after word surfaces that it will release subscribers' phone numbers and other information to telemarketers. ... Amid the Teamsters strike against United Parcel Service, Quill Corp. officials count 25 trailers full of merchandise sitting in lots waiting to be delivered. L.L. Bean and other catalogers report business as usual. ... Ad agencies and pharmaceutical companies hail the Food and Drug Administration's recent loosening of guidelines for pharmaceutical television ads, saying it will spark an increase in direct response TV ads and help drug companies create larger consumer databases.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: In separate rulings that shift privacy decision-making from the federal government to the states, two judges strike down a federal law that prohibits the release of personal information from driver's licenses and car registrations. ... DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen tells attendees at the fall conference that the DMA has begun a process to make compliance with its existing ethical business standards a condition of membership. ... Telemarketing stocks, once the darlings of Wall Street investors, are struggling. Stocks for 14 publicly traded companies have tumbled more than 40 percent this year, according to Smith Barney Inc. ... Vowing that "If this doesn't work, I'll change my ways and become an opt-in e-mail marketer," spam king Sanford Wallace embarks on a two-pronged, make-or-break effort to deliver bulk unsolicited e-mail for his clients. ... For J. Peterman Co., the Titanic is no sinking ship as the cataloger features props and costumes from the new movie "Titanic" in its first holiday gift book. ... Irving Wunderman dies of cancer at age 80. ... DM News debuts Teleservices News, a supplement to DM News.


1998


JANUARY-APRIL:
Postmaster general Marvin Runyon resigns to return to the private sector. ... Egghead will close its 80 stores, going entirely to e-commerce. ... Metromail seeks a buyer amid its sagging stock price. ... Walter Karl is acquired by American Business Information. ... Electronic post office program Sendmail adds a blacklist feature that can automatically reject messages by checking them against a "Realtime Blackhole List" of spammers run by Paul Vixie, founder of MAPS. ... Metromail accepts a tender offer from Great Universal Stores for all outstanding stock at $34.50 a share. ... Kleid Co.'s handling of rental income owed to list owners and managers before its March bankruptcy filing calls into question the practice of floating receivables to cover operating expenses. ... Compliance with DMA privacy principles will become mandatory for members as of July 1, 1999.


MAY-AUGUST: The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the USPS can be sued for trademark infringement. The ruling comes in a case by Global Mail Ltd. seeking to stop the USPS from using a service mark, "Global Priority Mail." ... For the first time, Gillette Co. uses direct mail of product samples as part of a campaign for its women's products. ... USPS chief operating officer William J. Henderson is named postmaster general. ... Office Depot plans to buy Viking Office Products for $3 billion. ... The FTC gives the industry failing grades on privacy self-regulation and says it will recommend that Congress pass legislation requiring parental consent for the collection and use of personally identifiable data from children 12 and younger. ... The Online Privacy Alliance proposes a system of electronic seals of approval for the enforcement of online information collection and use policies. ... Abercrombie & Fitch deletes a controversial "Drinking 101" article from its A&F Quarterly magalog.


SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER: Sweepstakes marketers' methods draw scrutiny from federal legislators and state regulators. A Senate hearing yields suggestions for measures to curb sweepstakes fraud. ... Reader's Digest says it will cut direct mail spending 20 to 25 percent and reduce its workforce by several hundred employees over three years. ... The USPS introduces Origin Confirm/Destination Confirm, a system to track mail electronically. ... Following Dell's lead, Compaq launches an effort to sell computers directly to consumers through the Internet and telephone sales. ... The American Telemarketing Association recasts itself as the American Teleservices Association and pledges to improve its image. ... The Better Business Bureau plans to roll out a seal of approval for online businesses in an effort to quell consumer privacy concerns.


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